Carol Burris Never Talked to Me About Wister

I am writing this in response to a very shameful story published by The Washington Post which painted an ugly picture of a very special event that happened here in Philadelphia. An event where parent power and parent resources emerged, and a community United, to protect and give their kids a better school.

In 2000 my three kids attended Wister Elementary in the second third and fourth grades it was a total nightmare. My kids never understood what they were asked to do; never understood the classwork. The teachers were always too busy to maintain contact with me. There was no parent involvement; no way for parents to connect with the teachers it was just a nightmare. At that time I was also a football and baseball coach for the Wister recreation centers. The Wister Wolverines had a lot of kids that were directly from Wister, and they struggled to speak and write legibly. Many of my younger kids, the first and second graders, the five and six-year-olds couldn’t read.

While waiting for Superman, I transferred out of Wister to Kelly Elementary School, where I served on the school advisory council and became President. I also started working very closely with Dorian Harris, of the district’s Family Engagement Resource Center. It was there in my outreach duties that I learned that in 2014 Wister never addressed staff issues. All of these experiences are what lifted my spirits when in 2015 I got the news that the school district finally had an answer for Wister, Mastery Charter Public Schools. Today I have a 7th grader that is doing well and a sixth grader that is excelling every day.

The problem that I saw was that there was no apparent interest. After so many years of broken promises and disappearing resources parents just didn’t care. The the other issue was the politics that brought retired PFT members to our neighborhoods posing as community members and parents opposing the change at Wister. I was successful in gathering a group of parents who wanted more information, and without the organization and help of Mastery we would have stayed in the dark and never knew that we had options and avenues to travel, period.

The truth is there were no high performing schools, there were no schools with growth. Dr. Hite removed the only solution being offered, and it seemed at that time there was an avalanche of parents who disagreed with Dr. Hite’s decision; we wanted the changes at Wister. We were ready to speak up. I was chosen to lead the charge, and I did, right past Dr. Hite, who in meeting in October of 2015 told parents that Mastery was too big of an answer and solution for Wister. It sounded to me that there was a general belief that our kids had not suffered enough and had not failed enough for the district to make hard choices.

Commissioner William Green and Commissioner Sylvia Simms had no choice but to face the constant wave of parents, students, and community that flooded every SRC meeting; shouting begging and testifying for change. When Commissioner Simms delivered her solution in December, we knew then that our voices were finally heard.

Shame on the editor for making it seem like parents were paid and given incentives to fight for their kids. You know some of us poor black folks want our kids to have a better future and are willing to fight for it. My name is William Jackson, and I led the parent charge, and I never received a dime from Mastery. My payment was that my kindergarten student who goes to Wister Mastery now can read and spell and loves going to school.

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